Guests enjoy annual Day at the Dells Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 03, 2015 -- 12:00 AM

Becky Ratajczyk (right), a Tommy Bartlett Water Show volunteer from Reedsburg, escorts guest Carol Lindamood to her seat during the annual Diocese of Madison Apostolate to the Handicapped Day at the Dells on August 21. To view or purchase photos, go to

(Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

WISCONSIN DELLS -- As summer seemed to turn into autumn early this year, one late August day stood out among the clouds and the cool and felt like the right season again.

Luckily, for about 800 special guests, the timing was perfect on August 21.

As they arrived by carload and busload into the parking lot of the Tommy Bartlett Water Show, the sun came out from behind the clouds saying, as the late showman Bartlett himself used to say, “Welcome, travelers!”

The Diocese of Madison Apostolate to the Handicapped’s annual Day at the Dells takes place every year and gives guests a chance to attend an outdoor Mass on the grounds of the water show, followed by a sack lunch and a free performance of the water show -- the “Greatest Show on H2O.”

The guests arrive

As guests arrived for the 37th year, volunteers from the water show helped escort them to the grandstand.

Many were given a ride there in a golf cart.

Guests in wheelchairs or who needed help walking had many eager volunteers aid them to their seats.

Jim Schuster, along with his wife Marge, from Marshall said he was looking forward to the “good show” as well as the antics of “Aqua,” the clutzy but kind-hearted clown who provides comic relief during the water show.

Their neighbors, Rita and Bob Meinholz, also attended the day’s activities.

It’s the “only way we get up here,” said Rita, who was also looking forward to Mass as well as the water show.

Msgr. Larry Bakke, director of the apostolate and pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Monroe and Brodhead, welcomed everyone.

“Welcome to all of you for this wonderful annual event,” he said.

“Are you ready to have a good time and to pray hard together?” Monsignor Bakke asked. The answer was, of course, “Yes.”

The day gets underway

As Mass was about to get underway, Monsignor Bakke thanked the more than a dozen priests from the Diocese of Madison who came to concelebrate Mass and distribute Communion to all the guests seated on the grounds.

The choir from St. Joseph Parish in Baraboo led everyone in song.

In his homily, Monsignor Bakke talked about how the day was an opportunity for everyone to renew their love of God.

“As we gather in this wonderful setting, in this good long tradition in our diocese, it is together as community that we sing to the Lord in sacred liturgy, ‘Yes, I do love you,’” he said.

Acknowledging his audience, he went on to say, “some of the happiest people I know are the ones with a real sense of gratitude. People who are thankful each and every day and even thankful when sometimes it’s a great challenge because of our disabilities or aging or even our abilities.”

He encouraged everyone to enjoy the day and especially to take advantage of renewal with God in the Eucharist.

While Mass was being celebrated, dozens of volunteers packed the sack lunches -- a sandwich, chips, apple, and candy bar -- that were personally delivered to all the guests following Mass.

As the guests ate their lunch, it was almost time for the water show.

The 2015 performances of the show are titled “Tommy Bartlett’s Salute to the Movies” as ski performers did their stunts and tricks to music from Back to the Future, American Graffiti, and other Hollywood classics.

The day’s slightly cooler temperatures than in years past gave some guests a chance to see the show closer, venturing out into the non-covered seating areas in the sunshine.

“It’s something for us to do,” said Charlotte Dittmar from Galena, Ill. with a smile. “It’s a nice day.”

More on the apostolate

The Apostolate to the Handicapped hosts two events each year when handicapped and elderly people are brought together.

In addition to the Day in the Dells, there is the annual Advent/Christmas Party, which will be held this year on Saturday, Dec. 5, at Monroe High School in Monroe.

The apostolate also presents a television Mass that airs Sunday mornings at 7 a.m. on WISC-TV.

For more information on the Apostolate to the Handicapped, go to and click on “Apostolate to the Handicapped” under the “Outreach” tab.

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